Posted by: Frederik Balfour on May 10, 2009
A year ago, when Sichuan province was hit by a massive earthquake, China loosened restrictions on foreign media, a move welcomed by human rights advocates who normally pillory China for muzzling the press. It was a wise and humanitarian decision: thanks to somewhat unfettered coverage, China was able to mobilize a huge amount of support both within the country and from abroad.
However as the first anniversary of the tragic temblor (May 12) approaches, foreign media have come up against a good deal of obstruction by local officials, and in at least one case, that of Financial Times correspondent Jamil Anderlini, who was subjected to physical harassment as he tried to do his job.
Fortunately for Anderlini, and not so fortunately for local goons (and police who stood by while it happened) who tried to rough him up, most of the scuffle was captured on video and can be seen on the FT’s website. What struck me most about the clip was the look of despair and resignation on the face of the woman Anderlini was prevented from interviewing: a mother who lost her child to the earthquake.
I know Anderline quite well, having attended yoga classes with him: he is not a confrontational person, and clearly kept his head throughout his ordeal. For other examples of reporters getting harassed visit China Digital Times.